Our Story and Our Sources
As we introduce Underground Meats and the Meats CSA as part of the Underground Food Collective, we thought it might be time to write a post about where we procure and how we chose the animals we use in our products.
The story starts back in 2007. You might say that Underground Meats really started as a joint venture between UFC and Morren Family Farms. Henry Morren came to us and mentioned that he had plans to raise a few pigs and wanted to know if we might be interested in joining him. With little hesitation, we agreed. We did some research on various breeds and what might work well for particular end product and after some deliberation, finally decided on eight, healthy heritage breed Red Wattles. Over the next nine months, we checked in every few weeks with Henry to see how the process was going. We built fences (and repaired fences), provided them with tasty kitchen scraps from our catering prep, and, ultimately, participated in the kill.
We learned a lot that year about pigs — especially which environment they preferred (lots of room to dig, trees to root at, and a varied diet were key) — and the experience gave us a strong idea about how we would move forward with the the idea of a meat business. With eight pigs ready to process, we tried our hand at curing hams, making sausages, salamis, and confit — pretty much any pork recipe we could find. To say the least, we made some amazing cured items from these pigs. And while we also made many mistakes along the way, the success of the product only solidified the desire to jump right in and do it again. Of course, the success didn’t only come from our ability to adapt and create recipes; the quality of pork we were using was the true the star.
We already knew that this would be the case from working with producers like John and Dorothy at Fountain Prairie Farms, but we never experienced it on such an intimate scale. We fell in love with the process and knew that it would change the way we approached our business. Instead of sourcing just fresh cuts, we started to buy whole animals, butcher them and process them fully at our facility. We taught ourselves how to be butchers and processors. Slowly, we began to collect equipment, attract new people to the venture, and develop connections with expert growers and butchers. Today, we have a state licensed meat processing facility where we are able to cure, smoke, and package a wide range of fresh, prepared, and specialty pork, beef, poultry, and game products. And while our network of producers has grown from the Morren Family Farms to more than a dozen, the principles by which each producer works to grow and care for the animals are fundamentally the same — raised on pasture with lots of room, diverse diet and unique breeds. It’s an honor to work with individuals who have such a strong desire to create such great product. Here are a few that you'll find in our Underground Meats CSA and in many of our upcoming product lines.
Shady Blue Acres has been raising Mulefoot pigs for the last few years. Mulefoot is a black, short haired heritage breed pig with an amazing flavor and a deep red hue to its meat. We are really excited about working with them as they are able to provide a steady supply for our company throughout the year.
Along with cattle and sheep, Roller Coaster Farms raises Tamworth pigs. These pigs provide many of our feature fresh cuts, including chops and loin. We have really enjoyed working with their pigs and can definitely tell that they are taken care of with the highest degree of attention.
Fountain Prairie Farm raises highland beef and veal. The Priske’s have been some of our longest standing producers. Only wonderful things can be said about the quality of their beef — it comes from the fact that these are some of the kindest and most caring people we have ever met.
Not only does Uplands Cheese Company make the best cheese in the U.S., they also raise amazing animals. They have been raising whey-fed pigs for a few years now and we are lucky enough to have two salted air-cured hams in our curing box. They also raise pasture veal for UFC. We received four this year. The quality of their veal blows any cage-fed animal away — the taste is amazing. We couldn’t be happier to be doing business with these folks.
Morren Family Farm is where this all started for us. Henry owns an orchard south of Madison in Orfordville, WI. He raised our first two batches of red waddles and now helps us make sausages and gives us the best insight on wine and spirits. Here is to hoping that we can convince him to put a few waddles out in the orchard this spring.
Helen and Dean at Loki Farms have been raising animals for us for the past year and a half. They are willing to try anything, but focus on raising ducks, geese, rabbits, chickens and turkeys as well as provide us with eggs and the occasional squab.